Students Staff

23 October 2014

Tributes to Leonore Davidoff

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Tags: , , — Communications Office @ 1:44 pm

Professor Leonore Davidoff died on Sunday 19 October at the age of 82.

Leonore had a long and continuous association with the Department of Sociology at Essex dating back to 1969 when she was first appointed as a Research Officer, right through to her recent Professor Emerita. In the years between she was a lecturer and senior lecturer in the Department and a Research Professor from 1990.

Her contribution to the study and teaching of gender, women’s history, gender history and social history more generally is incalculable and deeply appreciated by generations of students from around the world, many of whom have become eminent scholars in their own right, inspired by her work.

You can read a full obituary by Professor Miriam Glucksmann in the news section of our website.

You can share your memories and tributes to Leonore in the comment box on this page.

8 responses to “Tributes to Leonore Davidoff”

  1. Margaret Allen says:

    Lee was my supervisor in the MA Social History at Essex in 1977-8. She also examined my PhD Thesis in 1991. When I was at Essex we often took the late train home to Colchester together after hearing a talk at the WRRC in Clerkenwell Close. If the train was held up, it was great, more time for discussion. We kept in touch over many years and she was always very encouraging. She stayed with me on her visits to Adelaide and whenever I went to see her at Wivenhoe she would always come up to the train to meet me. Except on our last visit in August 2013, when she and David were so hospitable despite their ill health. Her contribution to gender histories has been enormous. She has been a great influence on my own work. In later years we enjoyed sharing stories of our grandchildren. I feel so sad to think that she is not there, at the end of the email any more.

  2. June Purvis says:

    It was a tremendous shock to hear of the sad death of Leonore, a quiet, unassuming woman who wore her scholarship lightly. The last time I saw her was at the 20th Anniversary Women’s History Network UK Conference, held at the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University in September 2011. Reading her contribution to that Conference, published in Women’s History Review, is a timely reminder of how difficult it was to establish women’s history in our British universities in the 1980s, and of the struggles we still face. Leonore was influential in setting up the Women’s History Network UK in 1991 and in establishing its links to the International Federation for Research in Women’s History. Her presence, scholarship, generosity and foresight will be sadly missed by us all. On behalf of the Women’s History Network UK, of which I am the current Convenor, I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to her family, many friends and colleagues.

  3. ida blom says:

    Leonore and I have been close friends since I met her for the first time in the 1970’s. We have followed each others research and shared happiness as well as disappoitments. I – as well as my students – have always been inspired by her fascinating research. She has been giving talks at our university several times, and as you know she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate here in 2000. She gave a paper at a conference here for the last time in August 2012.

    Through the years we have spent time together, not just at conferences, but also for walks and boating and other pleasures. When she fell ill, we got into the habit of having wonderful telephone conversations ever so often. I thougth Lee was somehow recovering this summer, when Chris, my husband, and I visited her. We
    had lunch together and a good long talk. But the following months she felt gradually weaker. Still, the week before she died, we had a good talk.

    Receiving the message that Lee had died,was a terrible schock. Somehow I still cannot understand we shall no more have our great conversations. I shall always miss Lee!!!!!! I am sure I share this feelihg with her collleagues and students.

    I wish I could be present at the celebration of Leonore next Monday, but I shall have to be content with asking you to please convey my warmest compassion to Leonore’s family and friends.


  4. Anna Clark says:

    Leonore Davidoff was a beloved friend and mentor to me since 1982 when I studied with her at the University of Essex. Her bold, fearless analysis of gender and her scrupulous research were always inspiring and breathtaking. She continued to be a mentor to me, reading my book manuscripts and making a difference in them. She established the journal Gender and History and continued to be an influential voice including at the recent Women’s history conference in New York City, at Columbia University, when she skyped in. She was one of the most referenced scholars at the conference. I was lucky enough to see her almost every year for long walks in Wivenhoe. I wish she had had more time for music and reading as she wished, but she faced her death with equanimity.

  5. Sally Alexander says:

    I heard of Lee before I met her from my then partner, who returned from a social history seminar in the early seventies full of this paper on domestic service which had provoked agitated argument among an audience which included E P Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and Raphael Samuel because of what it revealed about sex and class. Soon I met Lee at the Feminist History Group and the Women’s Research and Resources Centre in London, where she and Jean Le’Eseperance were rethinking the boundaries of ‘separate spheres’ and we bonded over the work of Elizabeth Fry, Anna Jameson, Louisa Twining, Mary Carpenter and other forerunners of Langham Place – ‘our Victorian friends’ as Martha Vicinus describes them above, such was our identification with our sources. ‘Mastered for Life’ which explored in forensic detail the relationship between domestic servant Hannah Cullwick and man of letters in Victorian London, Arthur Munby, gripped my students when it appeared; histories of sexuality since owe that article a deep debt. Family Fortunes, written with Catherine Hall, by exploring feeling, religious belief and financial brokerage within families redefined the field of British History. Lee’s work on family relationships ever since always broke new ground because it asked fresh questions about structure, feelings, generational transmission for instance, it used new sources, borrowed from other disciplines and was always collaborative. Personally I find the essay on the Freud family indispensable in part for what it tells us about families formation and reformation in all times and places. Lee’s work is firmly established, but I will miss those valued conversations – on trains, in restaurants, corners of conferences – where I encountered a modest if determined woman, with a capacious mind, intellectual eagerness and always with personal concern.

  6. Hannah Barker says:

    I was so sorry to hear of Lee’s death last week. She was always extremely kind to me: first when she knew me as a child and took time to help me with my various hobbies including writing a pseudo history of the house I lived in so that I could include it in a newspaper I was writing, and then later as an adult when I also became a historian of gender and she gave me advice on my research and my publications.

  7. Ayse Durakbasa says:

    I have just learned Leonore Davidoff’s death and want to express my grief having lost a great teacher, a guide and a dear friend.
    I remember her in Istanbul when she visited the Women’s Library in Istanbul in November 1998 and shared her ideas geneorously with young scholars and researchers in women’s history. Some of her articles were then translated into Turkish and published by Iletisim in 2002.
    For the last few weeks I have been thinking of her; I remembered her to my elder son, Nisan, with whom she had met when he was a baby boy and we would meet Leonore at the park,or in the streets of Wivenhoe, always loving and caring. I also remember her every Christmas because she was so kind to invite us to join the family for the Christmas evening when Nisan was only a few months old and we were away from our own parents, siblings.
    Lately, I have read her final book about sibling relationships and once more been deeply inspired by her excellent style of writing social history. I am sure her work will continue to provide inspiration for many researchers in Turkey, and elsewhere.
    I will miss her deep in the heart, especially, our correspondence and her unfailing support for me to carry on with my work. As I wrote to her in my last message, my prayers will always be with her.
    Ayse Durakbasa (doctorate student at Essex, 1988-1991; thesis supervised by L. Davidoff)current position: Professor of Sociology, Marmara University, Istanbul.

  8. Martha Vicinus says:

    Lee was a wonderful role model for all of us: she was encouraging and incisive in turning early, inchoate ideas into do-able projects. And she was always generous in sharing her profound knowledge of the history of women. She was also a dear friend who met her cancer diagnosis with courage and patience. I will miss our long walks through the Essex countryside, sharing research ideas and gossip about our Victorian women friends. She will be missed by many, many friends, including myself.

Leave a Reply to ida blom Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.